You’ve seen the trailers.
An ordinary guy named Guy — a bank teller whose bank is robbed every day — doesn’t realize that the city where he lives his happy everyday life (dodging the occasional firefight) is really a super-violent videogame.
Until, that is, he finally meets the girl of his dreams — only to learn that she is one of those mysterious sunglasses-wearing people who enjoy some strange position of importance in his world.
We would call them “players.”
Things really change, though, when he gets hold of a pair of sunglasses and sees that his world is very different from what he sees.
Meanwhile, in the real world, the people who created Guy’s programming are trying to find the proof that their program was stolen from them by Antwan, the head of a major videogame company so eccentric and obnoxious he could only be played by Taika Waititi.
But what’s remarkable here, in our age of disappointing big effects driven movies, is that Free Guy pays off on what the ads promise: it moves fast, has a wealth of goofy ideas and gives us one wild action scene after another, right up until we get an all-out Apocalyptic finale with some real stakes to all the incredible effects and stuntwork.
If you’ve seen as many Science Fiction films as I have, you’ll think of John Carpenter’s They Live in the moment when he puts on those glasses, but I’ll confess that I love the way that they worked in an homage to yet another scene from that film, even if it doesn’t end quite the same way.
Now I’ve got a lot of affection for Ryan Reynolds, who has a knack for playing eccentric and likeable characters. He’s on the top of his form here, and convincingly portrays Guy’s rather stunning naivety and sincerity — which he retains even after he becomes a kick ass action movie hero.
Of course, as this is a videogame world, the effects don’t have to look real, but there’s a great sense of design to them and to all of Guy’s world, particularly the secret level we finally see at the end. I’m actually impressed by most of the digital work and suspect that someone put a lot of care into it all.
But if you’ve seen the trailer, you know that it involves a romance between a real woman and a program. This is an old idea, one which may have first appeared in Daniel F. Galouye’s novel, Simulacron-3, although you may be more familiar with either of the two filmed version, The Thirteenth Floor (1999) or the 1973 German TV movie World on a Wire by the enfant terrible German New Wave director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. However, I’ll confess that I like Free Guy‘s resolution of the problem far better than that in the original, as it seems far more honest — and, frankly, a bit less uncomfortable.
Look, I’m not saying this is a brilliant film. Instead it is wild and funny and even suspenseful. It knows its job is to entertain us, not give us a computer science lecture — or any other sort of lecture, for that matter.
What’s even better is that it tries very hard to create the feeling that we are living in a real world, even if it is a virtual one and doesn’t follow the rules of our world.
We’re talking classic popcorn entertainment, a film that leaves you feeling elated when you leave the theater.
And that just doesn’t happen much these days, does it?…